Saying no properly is a lost art. Although a lot of people feel really awkward about saying no, I think women especially get uncomfortable with it, because we’re more societally trained to be people pleasers. But it’s one of the most important skills that you can master, because it ensures that you can keep your focus and your energy on the things that are most important to you.
The basic formula for saying no in pretty much any situations is:
Acknowledge the request.
Firmly say no, and explain why if you want to.
Offer another type of help/say something nice.
Pretty simple, right? But because I know it can be intimidating to say no to people when you’re not used to it, here are some templates to walk you through it — feel free to use them and modify them however you like
Someone wants your time.
Thanks so much for getting in touch and letting me know about [the project/retreat/whatever]. While it sounds really amazing, and like something I genuinely do wish I could be a part of, unfortunately, my schedule is already full.
If you’d like, I’d be happy to put you in touch with a few people who might be [interested/able to help] though.
Either way, best of luck with [the project/retreat/etc]!”
Someone wants a meeting.
Saw that you were hoping to get together face to face — I don’t have the availability for that right now, but how about we work it out via email or Skype?”
If they’re very insistent, then ask them to spell out exactly what they can’t do without meeting in person — often they’ll realize that an in person meeting isn’t necessary.
Someone wants a recommendation.
“I am so, so flattered by your request. Unfortunately,
OPTION A: I have a policy of not providing recommendations for products that aren’t a spot on fit for my readership, and while your [project/book/whatever] is certainly interesting, it’s just not the right fit.
OPTION B: I’m not going to be able to recommend your [product/book/whatever] as is because [XYZ reason — and make these good and detailed if you really think you might be able to recommend it later, that way you’re not just telling them to make it better.]
OPTION C: I don’t have the availability to really go through [your project/book/whatever] in depth right now, and I have a policy of only writing recommendations for [products/services] that I know in depth.
Have you considered contacting [XYZ person that might also be able to help]?
All the best,”
Someone wants to work with you (and you don’t want to work with them).
Thanks so much for getting in touch — it sounds like you’ve got a lot of interesting ideas going on! Unfortunately,
OPTION A: I don’t have the availability to take on a project like that right now. If you’re interested, I could recommend another [writer/designer/programmer/whatever] that may be able to help.
OPTION B: I don’t think I’m the right person for this job. I focus primarily on [specific type of project that you focus on], whereas yours is more of a [type of project they’re asking you to work on.]
I would be happy to recommend another [writer/designer/programmer/whatever] if you’re interested though!
And it goes without saying, but thank you so much for thinking of me. I’m sorry I couldn’t help out this time, but I am genuinely very flattered.
Someone wants to work with you, and you want to work with them, but not right now.
First of all, what an interesting [project/proposal/idea]! I would really love to be a part of it, but I’m totally booked up right now.
I know you have a timeline in place for this project, but could you put me on your go-to list for future projects after [X date that you’ll have availability], because I’d really love to work with you.
Also, if I have any last minute cancellations that would give me greater availability, you’ll definitely be my first call.
And even though I can’t work with you on this project, I do know a [writer/designers/programmer/whatever] who might be able to help — would you like me to put you in touch?”
Someone wants to keep a business relationship going, but it’s not working.
I really hate to have to start this conversation, but I think it’s important for me to be very honest with you — I won’t be able to continue our business relationship.
Please believe me when I say that I haven’t made this decision lightly, and I wish things could have worked out differently. In the next [week/two weeks/whatever] I’ll be [wrapping up XYZ/finishing up XYZ/sending you XYZ/whatever you need to do to wrap things up with them].
Again, I’m very sorry that things didn’t work out, and I wish you absolutely all the best in future.”
Someone wants you to do something for free that you’d be happy to charge for.
Good to hear from you — sounds like you’ve got a very interesting project in the works! My normal fee for this type of work is £XXX.XX,
OPTION A: but in this case I’d be happy to give you a 15% discount because I know that I’ll really enjoy working on this. If that works for you, then let’s talk details!
OPTION B: and while I wish I had the option to work on it for free with you, that’s not going to work. If you’d like to know more details about my pricing structure, I’d be happy to chat with you about it.
All the best,”
You said yes to a project earlier (but now you really can’t do it).
I wanted to give you a heads up as soon as possible — despite my very best intentions, I’ve over scheduled myself and I won’t be able to devote the time to [the project] I thought I would. I’m very sorry for not being able to tell you sooner, but if you’d like, I would love to put you on a waiting list for future projects (with a 10% discount for your inconvenience, should we end up doing a project together in future).
Again, please accept my apologies for the inconvenience and not being able to tell you sooner,”
Someone wants you to do something you’ve always done before, but the thought of doing it one more time makes you want to gnaw your own arm off.
Thanks so much for getting in touch! Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to do [the project/whatever it is] this time around —
OPTION A: I just don’t have the availability to devote to it that I did before.
OPTION B: I have to be totally honest with you: I’m really burned out on this project and don’t feel like I’ll be able to do a good job on it any more.
[A solution that might help them, like “Why don’t you ask XYZ person, I know they’re looking for projects like this” or “I bet you could get that done really easily using an outsourcing service —I’d be happy to send you a few names.”]
All the best,”
Someone didn’t understand that you were saying no the first time.
It seems like there may have been a miscommunication earlier — just to be totally clear, I am unable to [work on the project/come to the meeting/do your project for free/etc].
Sorry for the confusion, and all the best with your [project/meeting/whatever]!”
So now you tell me — what are you going to say no to this week? And how are you going to say it?